Sunday, 30 August 2015

I Follow Jez:A Twitter Update

My emergence as a political activist has had a surprising result. I have doubled the number of followers on Twitter!

In the interests of veracity, I have to say this was not hard to do, as I only had twenty-something, but nevertheless, I am heartened by it, and every Follower is welcomed and esteemed.

By the way, I learned a lot about twitter and the fickleness of its adherents the day I was unfollowed by Cheltenham. Imagine that! Unfollowed by a town! Thrown aside by 116,000 people in an instant! That, I reckon is an achievement, and possibly a record.

I often intrigue my husband with my obsession over the epitaph destined to adorn my tombstone. I say, 'intrigue', because 'bore', doesn't quite cut it. Intrigue enters the equation when you factor in the certainty that, at my own request, I will not have a tombstone at all. (I'm heading for a woodland burial, under a beech tree...) My long-standing favourite was, " 'She Made Herself Laugh' Phil 4v4", but I am now leaning towards, "'Unfollowed By Cheltenham" Ecclesiastes 1 v 2".

I digress.

Twitter is proving invaluable as a resource for keeping up with the Corbyn4Leader debate, as I follow several newspapers and some commentators, though I am careful to abide by my own confirmation bias and leave 'The Daily Telegraph' and 'The Daily Mail' to get along without me.

So. My eyes are being opened to the weird world of the newspaper comment columns. I am tempted to dip my toe in, but am reluctant to do so, because everybody is so nasty to one another. I don't do nasty, and I know jolly well that engaging in these debates achieves zilch, unless you enjoy swearing in public and shouting over a fence with your hands over your ears. (Which pretty much explains 'confirmation bias' in case you wondered.)

The piece by former Prime Minister Tony Blair accusing Jeremy Corbyn of living in an 'Alice In Wonderland fantasy world'. really caused the fur to fly. Personally, I would have loved to have known what was in those comments that were withdrawn, as the ones that were left up were pretty eye-watering.

I actually supported Tony Blair: he did some good things, and he made some mistakes, (as my brother, when a communist, once famously said about Joseph Stalin). I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt over the Iraq war, at least until the Chilcot Report is published. Duped by the CIA is my opinion as of now ... Therefore I don't come at this as the hard-left fantasist as my commentator- friends are wont to call me: I am a centre-left Social Democrat, who condemns wildcat strikes and zero-hour contracts in equal measure. (As a for instance ... )

However, I think that Mr Blair has misread the supporters of Jeremy Corbyn, and here's why:

The current crop of political leaders have insulated themselves from the lives of people who struggle. Leftish leaders, like Mr Blair have swallowed the 'orthodoxy' (challenged by many top economists) that austerity is the only way to make Britain great again. The problem is that, in terms of human misery, the cost is too high, and people like me, run of the mill soft-lefties, are waking up to this.

It is not OK to redefine child poverty so that the numbers could be massaged down. It is not right to introduce further cuts to benefits, so that more people have to resort to Food Banks. It is not humane to remove benefits in order to punish people with homelessness and starvation. (Think of the outrage if Putin announced something like this!) It is not compassionate to cut the benefits of people who are dying. it is not just that the poorest amongst us should bear the social cost of the banking crisis that they did not create.

Those of us who work with the victims of these policies know this, and this is why I voted for Jeremy.

Whom I now follow on Twitter.

Postscript: I read that this week bankers bonuses returned to pre-2008 levels. Because I don't do nasty, I have nothing to add.

Monday, 24 August 2015

#MicroblogMondays:Crying At Work

I was confronted one day by a demanding parent, insisting that her child's teacher to do this or that, and I said, "No, that's not the way we do things here." I explained that I managed my teachers' time and conditions to minimise stress. "Oh, get real!" Mrs Irate retorted, "Everyone is stressed these days!" "Possibly, " I replied, "But do you really want a stressed teacher in charge of your child?"


I am reminded of this exchange by the New York Times research on conditions at Amazon warehouses. I was especially taken by two things, firstly, that the charismatic CEO of Amazon had no idea that working conditions were terrible, for some, and secondly, that one response was, "Everyone cries at work!" To bully. Intimidate, overwork, distress, low-paid workers with little power, is to be expected, apparently.


I have decided to do something against CEO's, whose seriously bountiful lifestyles are funded on the unhappiness of others. I'm going to change my shopping habits. This is what I am going to do:


Use small local businesses

Buy from recycling centres

Buy from businesses that are employee-owned: The Co-operative, Waitrose, John Lewis

Use the public library ebook and audiobook service (which is free here)

Switch broadband, telephone and energy services to ethical alternatives

Buy from independent book-sellers (


Yes, it may be more expensive, but I can afford it. It'll take a real change of heart, because I am a bargain-hunter, and my habit has been to find the cheapest of anything. I never factored in the true cost in the well-being of the workers.


I once worked in a toxic workplace and I remember being driven to a breakdown. I left as soon as I could, and sought to be my own boss, so that bullying would never happen to me again. And when I was boss, I made sure it never happened to anyone in my employ.


If you want to know why I could face-down the belligerent parent, it was because my school was over-subscribed. I didn't need her. Being kind paid off.





Sunday, 23 August 2015

You Can Only See ...

My teacher, Richard Rohr, often says, "You can only see, what you've been taught to see." This has been brought home to me as I follow the campaign for the Labour Leadership.

I have voted for Jeremy Corbyn, and I did so because Jeremy DID NOT attend Oxford or Cambridge University, to study economics, like all his rivals, he HAS had a life outside the Westminster hothouse, and he DID vote against further cuts in welfare.

So what is it the centre-right political class is not seeing? Forty economists, not all Corbyn supporters, have written to the British press to say he's right on austerity. It won't stimulate the economy, it won't bring about a recovery, it will further impoverish the lives of the poorest, which will, in all probability, weaken the social fabric of our nation. So why do the three other candidates support the austerity programme designed by the opposition to dismantle the welfare state? Because they all studied economics at Oxbridge of course. And you cannot see what you weren't taught to see.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

#MicroblogMondays:They're ALL My Favourite!

I had lunch with my daughters Kate and Hannah and their husbands, Darren and Luke on Sunday, and we had a wonderful time meeting the latest addition to our family, Pumba, a black Labrador puppy. Pumba was very well-behaved for a puppy, and very tolerant of our adoration. He took it in his stride (or should that be 'bounce') and having greeted us all exuberently, he fell asleep and stayed there.

Kate and Darren are expecting their first child in the new year, a boy. So there was much discussion around this exciting event. The new arrival will be our fourth grandchild, and he is as eagerly expected as our first.

Ray and I have three daughters, who have grown into three wonderful women. Three children, I read the other day, is the hardest number to raise, and that may be true. I wouldn't call raising any number 'easy'. An amazing, fulfilling, life-enhancing experience, yes. 'Easy'? Not especially.

"Did you have a favourite?" Hannah asked me suddenly, and I didn't quite know what to say. I mean I'd have to say "No!" whether it was true or not, wouldn't I?

I endured years of fertility treatments in the 1970's, and I was one of the lucky ones. So my daughters were hard won, and each was greeted as a very special gift. All adored - the concept of "favourite" just doesn't come into it.,

Or, as I said a couple of weeks ago when introducing Luke to a friend,"I have three sons-in-law, and they're ALL my favourite!"

Take note girls!

Friday, 14 August 2015

To Frack Or Not To Frack

I have been following the mucky history of 'fracking' for some time on The Diane Rehm Show. (Regular readers know I get a lot of my foresight from American Public Radio, because whatever horrors are visited on our cousins in the USA, inevitably cross the Atlantic ... ) The promise that fracking was 'safe' because the carcinogens added to the high pressure water jets that break the shale rocks to release the gas, would not pollute drinking water, turned out to be undeliverable. "Ah yes!" The oil industry reassures us, "Faulty kit, not dangerous practice!" Well, really, if the oil giants couldn't get something as important as public health right straight away, why trust them with a second bite of the cherry?
And it's happening. Here it comes. Our lovely government that promised local autonomy is now saying, "Except when you don't allow fracking!" So just wait for it ... Some of our most beautiful landscapes will be despoiled, and the lives of many of our citizens disrupted by the roads that have to be laid to accommodate the heavy plant that has to go in and out, by those very goings in and out, and inevitably, someone, somewhere will get a dose of something nasty and everyone in government will be shocked and dismayed, like they didn't see THAT one coming. ...
The best science says we can't take out of the ground any more of the greenhouse-gas emitting hydrocarbons without destroying the biosphere. The legacy we leave to our descendants, if we carry on like this, if we allow fracking, is a dying planet. But hey! Politicians only think in bursts of five years, and crossing their fingers, they hope the mess they create now, will either go away, or get blamed on someone else ... And now, who knows? With luck, there might not be anyone left to blame them anyway!
My hope lies in a massive awakening of consciousness in the sleeping populace. I thought that very unlikely until tens of thousands of disenfranchised Brits joined the Labour Party to vote for Jeremy Corbyn. Who is a both red AND green. You should hear the establishment squeal! They didn't see THAT one coming either.
To destroy the planet for short-term gain is immoral. Corbyn offers a real alternative to the short-sighted adherence to unbridled self-interest that dogs the current political system. He might not be able to stop this  juggernaut, but he will stand in its way. Let's face it, someone has to. I, for one, will stand with him.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Robust Capitalism:Start Here

I am smitten by the number of hits to the story of my grandmother, Ellen Caroline Pitt, who died of complications in childbirth that would not have killed her and her child had she been rich. (She would have had adequate pre-natal care and been saved by a C-section.) The memories of those days are fading now, which isn't a good thing all round, I think, as I listen to the stories of the men and women sent away by the state to starve when their benefits are stopped.


Well, yes, you stupid people, you SHOULD have gone to that interview, and for not doing so, you deserve to go hungry!


I am exaggerating, aren't I? Nobody really says that? Maybe not, but it's what happens. I do not like what we are becoming, and that's a fact.


This is altogether too serious, so for a little light relief, I took the 'Would You Make An Entrepreneur ' test on the BBC website.

Despite the fact that I signed up for working all the hours that God sends, I failed the test. Even though I lied, and answered 'Endlessly Thinking Up Ways To,Make Money' when I really should have owned up to 'Having Fun' as being my modus operandi as a teenager.

I thought it was a wind-up, but no, really, this test is promoted by GOV-UK.

I SERIOUSLY don't like what we are becoming.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Jeremy Corbyn

Being soft left, and having a bit of time on my hands now that I'm retired, I joined the Fabian Society a few years ago. I even attended a meeting and I quite enjoyed myself, and might even go to another one day.
You will have gathered that I am a camp-follower rather an activist. I'm almost apologetic about it. To some people, learning that I am a closet socialist will come as a shock. Worse than declaring myself a Satanist to some. Less fun certainly, there having been no ritual dancing, or worse, at the Fabian Society meeting.
I may well have kept quiet about the whole thing. Politics being a done deal, the pinks are out, the oranges are dead in the water, the pale blues are triumphing over us for a while, you know, same old, same old, nothing changes, I only vote out of habit.
Then I got something interesting in my Twitter feed a couple of months ago. A stirring, a rumbling, a gentle start to a very quiet revolution. 'Put Corbyn on the ballot!' some lefties were saying and I thought "Hey-ho, well, in the interest of fairness, might as well." You know, hardly a response.
Then I started to watch the guy, listen to him, see what was happening. People were actually INTERESTED. Young people. The great number of turned-off people who I may be the first to call the 'unelecting'. I even thought about stumping up £3 to put my oar in.
Then a Fabian email told me I didn't have to. If I registered, and was duly checked out and verified as a True Fabian and not a Tory taking the piss, I was already entitled!!! So I did, and I can.
Today I received an email from my nice Labour MEP Ms Clare Moody,( UKIP one, not so nice. Never answered my query about his attendance record and expenses claim. SHAME ON YOU, EARL OF DARTFORD!) Ms Moody wrote to me telling me that she was voting for Yvette in the Leadership contest. I wrote back telling HER to vote for Jeremy Corbyn. I know you're dying to know what I said, so here it is:

Dear Clare Moody,

Thank you for your email today recommending that I should vote for
Yvette Cooper. I'm going to take time to explain to you why I'm voting
for Jeremy Corbyn.

Firstly, who I am. A retired primary school headteacher, who owes a
great deal to socialism. Without the great reforms following WW2 I may
have died because my parents couldn't afford hospital treatment when I
was four , and I would have been undereducated, having been denied a
decent education ... .

The Labour Party in those days seemed unafraid to be passionate about
social justice. Today, it appears to me to be 'Tory-lite' entirely
concerned with 'being electable' - a spurious and self-defeating
concept at best, that turns off many voters who see it as self-serving
and totally, totally uninspiring.

Barak Obama was 'unelectable' before he was elected, before his passion
for justice woke up the conscience of the left (and the centre ) and
broke the tired mould.

And look what the Scottish Nationalists achieved! First they wrung
improbable promises from a frightened establishment ( where was the 'no
alternative' mantra THEN?) then they wiped the floor with the
opposition in the General Election. Why? Because ordinary people like
me woke up to the fact that here were people in politics with passion,
rooted in the lives of the people they were asking to vote for them,
and not afraid of being 'unelectable '.

I could go on. Believe me I am, and always will be, a Labour supporter,
because I remember what the alternative looked like, but I have my eyes
open and can see clearly that nobody but Jeremy Corbyn in the current
leadership race will attract new voters. THAT is the lesson of the last

Now I'm going to invite you to take a cool hard look at a different
perspective, the one I hold. Read Paul Krugman on the economics of
austerity. Look at what Nicola Sturgeon has achieved with the
'unelecting' and vote for Jeremy Corbyn in the leadership election.

Yours sincerely,

Mary Francis

(Signed with an electronic signature in accordance with subsection 7(3)
of the Electronic Communications Act 2000.)

Monday, 10 August 2015

#MicroblogMonday: Since Becoming Enlightened ...

I could have opened up with, "Since Becoming Older", but that's just boring. Who would read that? So. Since Becoming Enlightened, I have been become a whole lot lazier. In fact I would encourage Enlightenment as a good enough reason to wander aimlessly in the wild admiring trees, or to sit still for long periods of time with a beatific look upon one's face." Wow!" I am thinking, which is probably not what the observers of my beatific countenance are thinking I'm thinking, "This is GREAT. All this doing next to nothing and getting admired for it! What a scam!" 

You do know I'm joking. Right? Please engage 'Tongue In Cheek' mode. 

The downside to Enlightenment is that once I start opening my mouth and engaging with people, they quickly realise I'm not very Enlightened at all. I get frustrated, angry, petty, and all the rest, just like everyone else. But Hey! Enlightenment has an answer to this too - SILENCE! I am no longer known to be frivolous and empty-headed (Not that I was either MUCH: I'm just making a point here.) but WISE.

So there you have it. Sit still a lot, walk aimlessly about a bit, and keep your mouth shut. The secret of a mystical and fulfilling life, admired by all.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

I didn't write this: Paul Krugman of the New York Times did:

@NYTimeskrugman: Corbyn and the Cringe Caucus

I haven’t been closely following developments in UK politics since the election, but people have been asking me to comment on the emergence of Jeremy Corbyn as a serious contender for Labour leadership. And I do have a few thoughts. 

 First, it’s really important to understand that the austerity policies of the current government are not, as much of the British press portrays them, the only responsible answer to a fiscal crisis. There is no fiscal crisis, except in the imagination of Britain’s Very Serious People; the policies had large costs; the economic upturn when the UK fiscal tightening was put on hold does not justify the previous costs. More than that, the whole austerian ideology is based on fantasy economics, while it’s actually the anti-austerians who are basing their views on the best evidence from modern macroeconomic theory and evidence. 

 Nonetheless, all the contenders for Labour leadership other than Mr. Corbyn have chosen to accept the austerian ideology in full, including accepting false claims that Labour was fiscally irresponsible and that this irresponsibility caused the crisis. As Simon Wren-Lewis says, when Labour supporters reject this move, they aren’t “moving left”, they’re refusing to follow a party elite that has decided to move sharply to the right. 

 What’s been going on within Labour reminds me of what went on within the Democratic Party under Reagan and again for a while under Bush: many leading figures in the party fell into what Josh Marshall used to call the “cringe”, basically accepting the right’s worldview but trying to win office by being a bit milder. There was a Stamaty cartoon during the Reagan years that, as I remember it, showed Democrats laying out their platform: big military spending, tax cuts for the rich, benefit cuts for the poor. “But how does that make you different from Republicans?” “Compassion — we care about the victims of our policies.”

 I don’t fully understand the apparent moral collapse of New Labour after an election that was not, if you look at the numbers, actually an overwhelming public endorsement of the Tories. But should we really be surprised if many Labour supporters still believe in what their party used to stand for, and are unwilling to support the Cringe Caucus in its flight to the right?

Monday, 3 August 2015

#MicroblogMondays: Taking Stock

I am sitting up in bed just hanging out with my iPad and thinking about things. Tons of things. My irreverent and, frankly, unruly, mind has been all over the place: the Big Bang, (awe) and my newest grandson (wonder) DNA, in-laws, out-laws ... There's no stopping it.
I went to church yesterday, and this coming together with people I don't all know very well, to take part in a sacrament that I barely understand, just about sums up my existence.
I am struggling to find words already spoken by that great American poet, Walt Whitman:
"I am grateful for what I am
It is surprising how contented one can be with nothing definite
My wealth is enjoyment of being."

Sixty and more years is as long as it took me to realise that there isn't much worth investing time and energy in, especially if the investment in same robs me of that 'enjoyment of being'. Family, certainly. In the most basic sense my children, and theirs, are reason enough to be, here, now; friends; the ability and constitution to bring love and compassion into being ... . Not a lot else matters much.
I look back on other paradigms; church, work, education, social networks, with a benign fondness, but now they're going away, I don't mind too much, though I'm grateful for the means these offered, to be here, on a Monday morning, messing about with my iPad ...
I guess this is the necessary work of growing old ... To watch out for what really matters, and let the rest go: a rehearsal for the Grand Departure, which, to assure my daughters who read this, won't be AT LEAST until I'm 106 ... :)